“My reasons for Morocco were many. They were endless, and began a long time ago.” – Tahir Shah, The Caliph’s House
This is a trip 9 years in the making. I can’t even remember when I first fell in love with Morocco; I think it sneaked up on me in between all the French classes and my college interests in colonial history and belly dancing. When I studied abroad in France my junior year of college, I got frequent tastes of North African culture and studied it more deliberately in class. My first taste of real cous cous in Grenoble convinced me – I had to go to Morocco. I planned a trip there at the end of my spring semester with a dear friend – 10 days, book ended by dirt-cheap Ryanair flights from Marseille to Marrakech. The highlight would be spending 3 days in the desert. There would be camels involved. I imagined myself cresting the dunes of the Sahara on a dromadaire as the sun set, and it seemed to me the pinnacle of adventure.
Unfortunately, reality intruded on my plans, and there were bombings in spring 2007 outside the US consulate in Casablanca. I held firm in my plans for a while, but eventually decided to cancel the trip, for the sake of my poor mom’s blood pressure. We bit the cost of our 25 euro flights, and made for Greece instead. This was no hardship at all, but my unrealized Moroccan adventure rested in the back of my mind, and I promised myself I’d make it happen one day.
In the intervening years, though I traveled the world, my passport never got a Moroccan stamp. My travels were mostly dictated by work and lack of personal funds, and took me to South Africa, India (which was right up there with Morocco on my list), Brazil, China, and Korea. The one personal trip I did plan was my honeymoon, and I suggested Morocco, but my husband didn’t think camel trekking through the desert was his idea of a relaxing vacation (a fair point.) So we went to Costa Rica instead. And I bided my time, hoarding the travel books I’d bought in 2007, along with my airline miles and credit card rewards points.
Finally, after not traveling anywhere internationally in 2015 (thanks to a job change and then the big move from NYC to Philly), my wanderlust summoned all her strength and loudly proclaimed, “That’s it! We are planning this trip to Morocco NOW!” With a mass of points, cash back, and rewards miles and my 30th birthday approaching, the time was finally ripe for my trip, 9 years after the first attempt.
I recruited my husband Keith and our dear couple friends, Sarah and Isa. With two tall strong men to escort us (a huge help in Morocco), my and Sarah’s penchant for travel planning, and my fluency in French, our ideal travel group took shape.
I set aside a bundle of reserved points and banked cash back, assuring that all my hotel nights, desert trip, and some spending money was covered. I also arranged to spend the last 2 days of my trip visiting my company’s center in Rabat. The only costs not covered by my careful planning and hoarding were my flights (the miles didn’t quite work out), and some spending money.
And finally, I booked my round-trip flights: Philly-> Tangier, Marrakech-> Philly. After hyperventilating a bit (which, to be fair, I do every time I book international travel), it sunk in – I was going to Morocco!
Fast forward several months, and here I am days from departure. Despite this trip being 9 years in the making, I find myself strangely unprepared. Keith and I closed on our very first house on March 1, and so the time that I would have dedicated to travel planning was spent sorting out the mortgage and getting to know the kind folks at Home Depot and Ikea. So this week, I am cramming it all in – going through the guidebook with a highlighter, reading the travel memoir I bought months ago (The Caliph’s House), sorting out all my photo apps on my phone so I make sure to take the best shots possible. Though I wish I hadn’t left it to the last minute, I am no less excited at the prospect of realizing my long-held travel dream.
Here’s how my two weeks are shaping up:
That’s all for now! Must get back to packing.